This legislative session, Rep. Elizabeth Dickerson, D-Rockland, introduced a bill, LD 970, that would have repealed $100,000 per year that Gov. Paul LePage has allotted to kill coyotes. Despite a majority of people testifying in support of the bill and presenting scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that shows this type of predator control to be not only ineffective but actually detrimental to its stated intent, the committee voted, 12-1, that the bill ought not to pass.
While the state testified that it was only targeting specific areas around deer yards, we presented state documents showing Canada lynx were caught in traps five miles from the closest deer yard by agents of the department who were acting as coyote control agents. Canada lynx are supposed to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Here in Maine we obviously don’t see it that way.
Last year the cost per coyote came to $241, according to John Pratte, Wildlife Management Section supervisor of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This $100,000 allotted by LePage comes from the state’s General Fund. It’s money you and I pay to the state in taxes. Think of the many cuts imposed on hard-working Mainers and their families and ask yourselves how this program, which has no documentation of any effectiveness whatsoever, has passed muster.
It is part and parcel of the mentality that exists in Augusta when it comes to wildlife. The committee that voted against this bill sides time and again with the minority, regardless of science, majority public opinion or the complete lack of effectiveness of some perceived problem. Deer in Maine are doing fine everywhere there is good habitat. This is nature. No food, no shelter, no deer. It actually is that simple.
Throughout the United States, deer and coyotes coexist naturally, with no danger of one wiping out the other, wherever habitat supports adequate populations. The coyote population in Maine has remained relatively stable throughout the last 20 years. The deer population has declined as our northern woods have continued to be devastated through large-scale woodcutting operations. This is history, not guesswork. It seems as though the state has found its newest scapegoat. Enter the coyote.
By ignoring the biology, the facts and the overwhelming testimony of those in favor of repealing this useless expenditure of our tax dollars, the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife once again showed how little homework it actually does when it comes to wildlife and the science that governs our natural world. It is, once again, a sad comment on what goes on in Augusta.
I would ask those who care not only about wildlife but where their tax dollars go to contact their representative and ask them to vote in favor of LD 970 when it reaches the full Legislature.
Daryl DeJoy is executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine.